Former Greek Prime MinisterAlexis Tsipras sent a video message endorsing Zoran Zaev and his SDSM party at the coming elections. Tsipras praised Zaev for signing the Prespa treaty, which imposed a new name on Macedonia after decades of pressure from Greece, and also began a process of redefining the Macedonian national identity.
Tsipras praised Zaev for his role in the Prespa treaty, calling him courageous and insisting that the treaty opened a new stage of friendship between Greece and “North Macedonia”. Having invested his own legacy in the treaty, Tsipras has often made similar comments. But what made his statement controversial is that he included a poetic flourish in it, quoting a poem from Blaze Koneski, the linguist who is credited with standardizing the Macedonian language after the Second World War. The choice of Koneski is telling, as Bulgaria declares him the person who “invented” the Macedonian language out of a western Bulgarian dialect.
But the quote Tsipras chose itself raised eyebrows. “Still the pain cries out within me, that I am born within a tribe in need, sower of barren seeds”, Tsipras said, trying to depict a difficult position of Macedonia before the Prespa treaty, and later adding a more optimistic note from another poet. “Tribe in need” especially is better translated as a “crushed tribe” from the original poem “A memory after many years” by Koneski.
Is he mocking SDSM and all of us with his choice of the poem?, asked VMRO-DPMNE official Ilija Dimovski after the Tsipras video message was broadcast. Many Macedonians do feel like a “crushed tribe” after the Prespa treaty was imposed on the country and for many, the message from the former Greek Prime Minister did not have the probably intended effect of reconciliation but a sense of “rubbing it in”.